Author Insight with Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton

Maple syrup season is here! In Maple Syrup from the Sugarhouse by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton and illustrated by Kathryn Mitter, Kelsey and her father begin harvesting sap from sugar maple trees. Family and friends join them to help in the process of turning the sap into maple syrup.

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Author Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton walks us through her experience making maple syrup:

I was in second grade the first time I made maple syrup. We were living in a suburb of Detroit. We decided we were going to make maple syrup from the maple trees in our yard.

My father drilled a hole and then tapped a copper pipe into the side of a huge maple tree. We placed my mother’s pasta pan below to gather the sap. When the pan filled we took it into the house and began boiling. We kept gathering more sap, and boiling.

We didn’t know that it took 40-50 gallons of sap to make syrup. We also didn’t think about all that steam filling our home.  Hours later our windows were dripping with sweat, and we weren’t any closer to having syrup. What we did have was sweetened water. My mom decided to use the water to make corn beef.

I was 35 when we bought our farm in Medina, Ohio. The first fall we delighted in the beauty of the maple trees dropping their red, yellow, orange, leaves.  My husband decided we were going to tap the trees in the spring. In the meantime he located a hobbyist 55 gallon drum/evaporator, some spiles, and buckets. He built a rustic sugar-house-lean-to smack dab in the middle of the woods. Then we started stockpiling wood during the fall and winter.

We waited all winter for the right spring weather, above freezing days and freezing nights. Finally, the weather provided us with our first run. We were excited and very busy! My husband, our two daughters, and I worked all day and into the night for three days straight. Soon, our family and friends found out what we were up to and came to see and help. When we finished the season, we were overjoyed and tired. We had three runs that year and bottled 18 gallons of syrup.

Every year after that we grew: more buckets, more syrup, more friends and family. Then we decided to build a larger sugar house at the edge of the sugar bush. The great part of that was we finally had bathrooms! (Trudging through the woods to get to our home’s bathroom was hard for older people and children—and even me too sometimes!)

We purchased a larger evaporator. Now maple syrup season is a regular event for all our friends and family. Every summer and fall we cut wood and stack it next to the sugar house. We buy bottles and jugs to fill. We make sure our spiles and buckets are clean and the paths are clear through the sugar bush. When the winter winds blow, we sit inside enjoying our syrup from last season. We pour it over our pancakes, waffles, cornbread, ice cream. We put it in our coffee, add it to our pork chops, and sometimes just slurp a spoonful. When our jugs are just about empty, it’s spring time again! We don our jackets, boots, gloves and set out to the sugar bush to make some more sweet maple syrup.

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Thanks so much, Laurie! To find out more about Maple Syrup from the Sugarhouse, check out our website.

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Author Insight with Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton

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